When it comes to spiritual growth and development, there are a lot of different theories and models out there. But despite all the different approaches, most models agree on a few key points. In this post, we’ll explore eight steps that are essential for deepening your spiritual connection. If you’re ready to empower your spirit, then read on!
The spiritual and psychosocial development stages of German psychoanalyst Erik H. Erikson has been a reference to the world of psychiatry and psychology.
Erikson, who divided human ego development into eight stages, defined the stages of mental and spiritual development characterized by physical, cognitive, impulsive and sexual changes, in which internal crises are experienced in every period, and stated that if the crisis in each period is successfully overcome, the person gains strength and can easily move to the next step.
According to Erikson, spiritual maturity is not confined to time; it is continual. Problems that are not fully resolved in the stages of mental development may lead to another period, as well as severe stress may cause problems to be experienced again or the individual may return to the previous stages. Failure in a period can be compensated in the following periods when appropriate conditions are provided, and their negative effects on personality development can be erased.
Spiritual Development Stages
1) First Stage of Spiritual Development (Basic Trust Versus Distrust Period):
It covers the first 1-1.5 years of life. The basic sense of trust develops when this requirement of the baby, who lives everything with his mouth, whose only goal is to search and find the mother’s breast, and to get food by sucking, is met correctly and regularly.
This period of Spiritual Development, which Freud called the oral period, lays the foundation for the formation of positive expectations towards the outside world. Getting through this first step in a healthy way improves the feelings of hope and harmony.
The baby, who is completely defenseless and unarmed, begins to become active with the emergence of teeth from the sixth month. They bite their mother’s nipples. They see that they can influence their environment and are separate entities. When her breast was bitten, the mother pulled the breast and the feeding stopped. If the baby cannot break his/her urge to bite, he/she realizes that he/she cannot be fed and the first steps are taken to master his/her impulses.
Regular and timely fulfillment of basic needs such as nutrition, toilet, protection by the parents, develops feelings of trust, optimism and hope in children. This is both against the environment and against themselves and what they can do.
This period, when the first foundation of self-emotions is laid, will teach that learning that every behavior can have positive or negative consequences, to understand the meaning and necessity of social limitations, that everything cannot be owned or done, and not to be disappointed when these are not realized.
If this period of spiritual development is not passed in a healthy way, the risk of developing pessimism and hopelessness, withdrawn schizoid personality, paranoid and delusional disorders, and alcohol-substance addiction is high in the future.
2) Second Stage of Spiritual Development (The Period of Shame and Suspicion Towards Independence):
This period of Spiritual Development, which covers the ages of 1-3, is called Freud’s anal period. Speaking, urine and stool control, walking has started on this stage of spiritual development.
Realizing that his actions and behaviors belong to him, the child discovered to hold and release his feces and became independent. He/she seeks to gain his/her autonomy and to prove his/her autonomy. He/she goes between cooperation and stubbornness.
Without being overprotective, a sense of self-confidence will develop if sufficient freedom and support are given. A child who is punished, intervened in every attempt, or is overprotected will have doubts about his/her abilities, develop feelings of shyness, and fall into doubt.
Starting toilet training too early, applying excessive pressure in toilet training, overly protective parent attitude will weaken the child’s self-control and judgment ability, and free will development will be delayed.
When this period is not handled properly, attitudes such as shame and doubt can be permanent. The individual can develop a paranoid structure by thinking that everyone is aiming to control himself in the future. Embarrassment can make them see their bodies, thoughts and goals as dirty or negative, with the feeling that they are worse than others.
The obsessive-compulsive personality structure, which is a perfectionist, fixed-minded and lacking in flexibility, takes shape in this period of spiritual development.
This period of spiritual development is crucial in people because it can make well-intentioned, cooperative, loving, autonomous, self-expressive, just, respectful, and trusting people.
3) Third Stage of Spiritual Development (Guilt Towards the Attempt):
This stage of Spiritual Development, which Freud named the phallic-oedipal period, covers the ages of 3-6.
The child, whose skeletal-muscular system and language skills develop, seeks to explore the outside world and take a role in it. Excessive curiosity is one of the characteristics of this period, and he/she constantly searches around and asks questions.
He/she has become interested in sexuality on this spiritual stage, questions about the genitals, games involving sexuality, and behaviors such as touching his/her or his/her peers’ genitals can be seen. If this situation is tried to be prevented in a state of panic, suppressed, and prevented by scaring him/her, it is possible to encounter sexual problems in the future.
Competing with others and physically harming the environment and people are natural. In summary, assertiveness in the child increased, and problematic behaviors also increased indirectly.
The child being criticized for his behaviors and sexuality-related issues, being punished, making him feel inadequate, will cause him to feel guilty in his actions, activities and thoughts in the future.
Playing with peers is of great importance in his development. Meanwhile, he will learn to master his aggressive impulses, to use initiative and to have passion.
During this period, arousal can be seen in the sexual organs in children. If these arousal or manipulation behaviors are tried to be suppressed by methods such as shame and punishment, the future sexual life will be interrupted.
The best solution is to organize the child’s aggressive impulses by shifting them to constructive actions such as play, competition, and using certain items and tools.
The excessive pressure you put on the child will limit entrepreneurship and imagination, disrupt the concepts of passion and ambition, and cause a very strong superego development. The future all-or-nothing style of mindset, behaviors such as forcing everyone into their own moral and behavioral patterns depend on the failure to overcome this period successfully.
Responsibility and personal discipline characteristics are acquired in this period.
In cases where the balance between crime and attempt is disrupted, psychiatric disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder, conversion disorder, phobic disorders and psychosomatic disorders are prepared in the future.
As a parent, your job is to support assertiveness by striking a consistent balance between the child’s do’s and don’ts during this period. If you can do this, the child knows his boundaries, lives in harmony with his environment and other people, uses things according to their purpose, and tastes the feeling of happiness and success.
Supporting the child does not mean approving every action. This is one of the biggest mistakes made today. In this case, the development of morality will be negatively affected, and selfish individuals who do not recognize rights and laws will be raised.
4) The Fourth Stage of Spiritual Development (The Period of Worthlessness Versus Productivity):
Expressed as the feeling of inability to be successful, this period, which covers the ages of 6-11, Freud named it the latent period. It is the school-age period.
A period of sexual stagnation has entered on Spiritual Development, relations with peers have increased, the pleasure of learning new things and producing something has come to the fore. The child tries to identify with someone by taking as an example and dreams of playing roles in different fields.
With his school life, his feet will be more grounded and his inappropriate wishes and dreams will turn towards more realistic goals. The desire to learn and succeed is intense, it wants to gain admiration and appreciation for them. At this point, teachers and parents have a great responsibility. Satisfying the child’s need for success is important for mental health.
It should always be focused on what the child can do, supported, and promoted. Children should not be expected to exceed their capacity, should not be given responsibilities that they cannot bear, and should not be asked for things they cannot do. It will be the best parental attitude to ensure that the child is successful by assigning appropriate duties and responsibilities.
It is a source of great happiness for the child to gain success by engaging in certain activities for himself or his environment and to receive support and approval in return. Doing something and completing what he started will give great pleasure. By watching their parents, older people, or more experienced friends, they will achieve successes such as using tools and improving their hand and body skills.
Being discriminated against, humiliated, or being overprotected at school or in the family is traumatic for the child. The biggest problem in this period is the feeling of inadequacy and inferiority that the child will gain by comparing himself to others. In this case, the child may turn to the wrong people, while he should take the people in the upper positions as an example.
The child who develops a sense of inferiority can make the only goal of earning money and strength to gain respect. In this case, work will become the most important thing in life for the person, and emotional and spiritual dissatisfaction will pave the way for psychopathologies.
In order for your child not to feel inadequate and inferior, you should clearly express your appreciation and never withhold this.
5) Fifth Stage of Spiritual Development (Role Confusion Versus a Sense of Identity):
It covers the period from age 11 to the end of adolescence. The main purpose of this period is to develop your identity, to acquire a sense of identity. It will be easy to create a healthy sense of identity if the previous stages have been successfully experienced.
Adolescents gain identity through identification and imitation mechanisms. Taking examples of suitable people will facilitate the process.
During this period of Spiritual Development, interest in the opposite sex increased and the first youth loves began to occur. These loves are innocent and are an extension of self-seeking. Most of them are short-lived, full of ups and downs, quickly exhausting, immature loves.
It strives to come together with people of a similar mindset, to establish solidarity groups, to appear strong, and to create a common identity. The youth, who is struggling between the values of childhood and adulthood, is indecisive and confused. This turmoil can lead to his passionate attachment to different heroes, sects and ideologies, and religious issues. Alcohol and substance use may show criminal behavior.
There is a great need for approval and respect. Because of this, the group has difficulty breaking out of discipline. Groups often do not accept, exclude, or even show violence against those with different habits, mentalities, and behavior.
How they look and evaluate by their environment is a big obsession for adolescents. Thoughts about the profession will also mature in this period.
Parents should allow adolescents to seek new roles in a controlled manner in order to gain a positive sense of identity. The adolescent will investigate, interpret many positive or negative things, decide which is the best for him, and try to prepare spiritually and socially, what kind of person, what kind of parent, what kind of wife he will be and step into the adult world.
In summary, the importance of this phase is to solve the identity crisis.
6) Sixth Stage of Spiritual Development (The Period of Establishing Intimacy Despite Solitude):
This period of Spiritual Development, which covers the ages of 21-40, is also called isolation against intimacy.
If the identity crisis is successfully resolved, social communication, friendships, business relationships, and sexual life will be harmonious and satisfying. The power to give and receive love safely and unconditionally is possible with a successful identity.
Marriage and business career efforts include this period. In this phase, the main goal is to communicate closely with someone else. Individuals should be able to make concessions in their relationships and make mutual sacrifices. Your capacity to build intimacy will directly affect your marriage, business and social life.
Individuals who cannot overcome the crisis see other people as harmful and threatening to themselves and try to get themselves into a security chain. Indirectly or directly, it keeps other people away from it, does not establish close relationships, or even gets into a struggle with them.
Communication, which is far from love and respect for human beings, is the style of individuals who are psychologically driven to loneliness and is one of the most important social, social and spiritual problems of today.
7) Seventh Stage of Spiritual Development (Productivity Versus Stagnation Period):
This period of Spiritual Development, also referred to as middle adulthood, covers the ages of 40-65. The person will make a choice between productivity and pause.
Creating the new generation, guiding them towards positive goals, setting them a good example is a real productivity. Although significant successes have been achieved in business, family and social life, the rising period has slowed down and a pause period has entered before the collapse.
People who have not achieved mental, social and sexual satisfaction may no longer be able to hide the negativities, false values, false comforting thoughts and movement structures they try to throw into their unconscious.
Expectations, beliefs and hopes are exhausted, and the outlook on life may turn negative. False friendships turn inside themselves in obsessive closeness, almost becoming children. During this period, severe depressions, alcohol and substance addiction may develop. A mentally healthy individual will show productivity appropriate to his age and position without feeling inefficient.
8) Eighth Stage of Spiritual Development (Wisdom period):
This phase of Spiritual Development, which covers over 65 years of age, is a period of despair towards self-integrity. The person has either lived his life to the fullest, has received the satisfaction of productivity, has found himself fully, or he is in despair with the thoughts that his life is empty and that life is meaningless, crushed under the conflicts he has experienced.
A person who has reached the integrity of the self, accepting his place and role in life, will spend the last stages of his life in peace, with life at peace with himself. This is a state of wisdom. Even though nothing will come back and change the past, he is aware that he is making his own path with his own responsibility, mistakes and truths, and he does not regret it.
He knows he’s doing the best and the right thing he can do. I do not struggle with wishes, not saying that I would have lived differently if it was possible to go back. The wise person who can say this is not afraid of death, he can easily accept death. Young generations will benefit from the material and spiritual values that he created when he dies, and the peace of this will satisfy his soul.
The progress and peace of societies are directly proportional to the abundance of mature people who have reached the level of wisdom. Hardworking, patient, honest, moral, fulfilled, loving people will emerge from such societies, and individuals who do not escape the problems and responsibilities of life will be raised.
Last Updated on December 3, 2021 by Patric Johnson